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July 26 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency: a Deadline Deadbeat?

Vicki E. Alger

Go to Regulations.gov and look up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and you’ll discover close to 7,500 regulations. The EPA explains that it:

… provides compliance assistance on a sector-by-sector basis in order to efficiently reach facilities with similar operations, processes or practices.  Most business sectors are affected by a number of major environmental statutes and regulations.

A recent report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, however, documents that this government agency has a lackluster compliance track record when it comes to core Clean Air Act programs:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) record of compliance with statutory deadlines established for three core Clean Air Act programs raises serious questions regarding the agency’s competence and discretion.

Since 1993, 98 percent of EPA regulations (196 out of 200) pursuant to these programs were promulgated late, by an average of 2,072 days after their respective statutorily defined deadlines. Currently, 65 percent of the EPA’s statutorily defined responsibilities (212 of 322 possible) are past due by an average of 2,147 days. In addition, the results demonstrate the insidiousness of a practice known as “sue and settle,” whereby the EPA advances the agenda of environmental advocacy groups.

Such performance matters because it calls into question the EPA’s overall competence—especially since its discretionary authority was massively expanded in 2009 to regulate greenhouse gases to combat climate change. Moreover, the EPA’s preferred practice of   “sue and settle” allows environmental groups to file “friendly” lawsuits against the EPA when it fails to meet a deadline. The result is “collusive policymaking” as part of the settlements—rather than full-scale litigation that would set clear policies for all affected parties.

As CEI author William Yeatman explains:

Sweetheart lawsuits are enabling secret policy negotiations between unelected bureaucrats and environmental lawyers. If the EPA wants to give priority to its many outstanding responsibilities, it should do so in cooperation with the states, which have to actually implement these regulations, rather than the likes of environmental special interests like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council or the Center for Biological Diversity.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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